1st Edition

The Single-Minded Animal Shared Intentionality, Normativity, and the Foundations of Discursive Cognition

By Preston Stovall Copyright 2022
    398 Pages 13 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    398 Pages 13 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book provides an account of discursive or reason-governed cognition, by synthesizing research in the philosophy of language, the philosophy of mind, and evolutionary anthropology.

    Using the grasp of a natural language as a model for the autonomous or self-governed rationality of discursive cognition, the author uses a semantics for individual intentions, shared intentions, and normative attitudes as a framework for understanding what it is to be a rational animal. This semantics interprets claims about shared intentions and claims about what people ought and may do as the expression of plans of action that involve taking the points of view of other people within a community. This has important consequences for our understanding of both the natural basis and the social relevance of intentional and normative mental states. In order to distinguish the strong and weak modal force, which characterizes normativity but not shared intentionality, the author argues that a notion of single-minded practical cognition is necessary. This account of single-mindedness is then used to shed light on the autonomy or self-government characteristic of discursive cognition, as manifest in a linguistic community whose members are able to adopt the standpoints of others.

    Drawing together research in philosophy and the related sciences, the formal account of the semantic content of the claims we use to give expression to shared intentional and normative mental states integrates well with research in cognitive science, evolutionary anthropology, and social psychology concerning the ontogenetic and phylogenetic development of shared intentionality and norm psychology in human beings and other primates. The Single-Minded Animal will appeal to researchers and advanced students working on shared intentionality, normativity, rationality, cognitive science, social and developmental psychology, and evolutionary anthropology.

    Introduction: Rationality, Autonomy, and Shared Intentionality

    Part I

    1. The Lamp of Reason and the Mirror of Nature

    2. Evolutionary Anthropology and Shared Practical Picturing

    3. Deontic Picturing and Obedience to Linguistic Norms

    Part II

    4. Discursive Deontic Cognition

    5. Understanding What We Ought and Shall Do

    6. From the Grunts and Groans of the Cave to the Light of Discursive Cognition: Climbing Jones’s Ladder

    7. On the Scientific Image of the Foundations of Discursive Cognition

    Part III

    8. Discursive and Nondiscursive Cognition: Questions of Conceptual and Ontological Priority

    9. Comparing Plan-Conditional World-Mind Expressions of Shared Intentionality with Truth-Conditional Mind-World Representations of Shared Intentionality

    10. The Power of Spirit

    Conclusion: Systematic and Edifying Philosophy Reconsidered


    Preston Stovall is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Philosophy and Social Science at the University of Hradec Králové. He received his B.A. from Montana State University, his M.A. from Texas A&M University, and his Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh. He works in the philosophy of language, the philosophy of mind, and metaphysics, informed by a reading of the German idealists and the American pragmatists.

    “Stovall fills an important hole in the Sellars-Brandom account of normativity, the question of how normative rationality is acquired developmentally, by appealing to work in cognitive science on collective intentionality and sensitivity to norms, and by introducing a novel analysis of collective planning talk. This is an intriguing and sophisticated account of a central issue in philosophy.”

    Stephen Turner, University of South Florida, USA

    "Stovall’s is one of the very few accounts seeking to connect empirical and philosophical approaches to human cognition that gives normativity pride of place. This is an enormously important book that could potentially lead the philosophy of cognitive science to new and productive insights."

    Michael Tomasello, Duke University, USA

    "Preston Stovall's book is rich in details and covers in broad strokes some very important themes within philosophy of language and intentionality."

    R. Krishnaswamy, The Philosophical Quarterly

    The Single-Minded Animal is an ambitious, wide-ranging, and admirably interdisciplinary book, taking on a vast range of philosophical and scientific work . . . while we may indeed be single-minded animals, in his sense, in this impressive book, Stovall has shown us the virtue and fruitfulness of philosophical and scientific broad-mindedness.”

    Brandon Beasley, Metascience